Guest Blog post # 107: "The Error of Their Ways", by Bill Woods

I figure this year I will probably judge 1000 tests. Taking into account all the levels, that means I will probably give at least 20,000 separate marks. Some judges will do far, far many more rides. With all those opportunities there are bound to be some mistakes. Despite his best intentions, a judge’s brain momentarily wanders, and he misses a movement. It happens. Or a judge glances down at the test sheet at an inopportune moment and misses the horse switching leads and switching back after one stride in the corner. The judge giveth and the judge taketh away. Presumably it all balances out.

However, there are some assorted horror stories which I hear of where judges are simply not following the rules, and for this I have a little patience. If a rider takes the wrong lead, you don’t blow the whistle, score an error, and let her do it again. A MISTAKE is not an “error of course!”

If the rider’s chinstrap is loose, you don’t eliminate them. According to the rules, you stop them, tell them to fix it, and go back to riding the test. A change of lead through the trot according to the rulebook has three to five trot steps between the canters. If the horse breaks and pops the other lead with hardly any trot, it’s not clever or better. It’s wrong and should be penalized! A rider gets eliminated for saluting with the hand that’s holding the whip. Wrong! That is completely LEGAL.

In general I want to see everyone – that means the competitors, the judges, and the organizers – follow the rules. Having said that there are some gray areas, and I believe in interpreting them in favor of the rider in giving the benefit of the doubt if there is a question. reason and good humor are requirements in all these circumstances.

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